WTNYSeptember 23, 2004
WTNY Interview: Kevin Goldstein
By Bryan Smith

I was lucky enough to recently chat with Kevin Goldstein on-line, the man behind those Baseball America Prospect Reports you get in your e-mail everyday. Goldstein, a Chicago native, had much to say on top prospects, pitch counts, high school pitchers, and lots more. With this and my interview of Dave Cameron, we are getting the chance to look at two of the best minds behind prospect theory. Enjoy...

Wait Til Next Year: OK, let's start in your backyard, the Midwest League. Do you think Brian Dopirak was worthy of the Prospect of the Year award?

Kevin Goldstein: Absolutely, this is a guy who fell like 4-5 homers shorts of the league record, and he addressed the biggest concern in his game, the ability to hit for average

WTNY: But from a prospect standpoint, is he far ahead of Barton, Kinsler, Danks?

Goldstein: FAR ahead, no. But probably a bit ahead.

WTNY: As for Kinsler, I can't help but see him as the 2004 Jeremy Reed, destined to struggle in AAA. Is this guy for real, or should the Rangers not let Soriano go quite yet?

Goldstein: Is he for real? Maybe. I don't think we know yet. He's certainly far better than anybody expected, and I think that's for real. It's hard to have a fluke season THAT good. That said I'm still not convinced he's as good as this season was and scouts have concerns about his swing from the heels approach. I wouldn't go around saying the Rangers should get rid of an established star like Alfonso Soriano because they have this Kinsler guy.

WTNY: Going back to Daric Barton, who led the MWL is OBP, how does he fit in the catcher scene considering Mathis and Navarro's struggles, Quiroz's injury, and position concerns about Huber?

Goldstein: He can hit, no doubt about it -- but I still think the jury is out as to whether or not he can catch, which makes him difficult to compare to those guys. His bat is real, though.

WTNY: Will Mathis and Navarro bounce back from subpar seasons? I saw that Callis was bullish on Mathis' stock still.

Goldstein: I would be too on Mathis -- there is a very long list of catchers who have run out of gas in the heat of the Texas League and been just fine. Navarro, I'm not so hot on, I still think he's a pretty good prospect, but I'm not sure he'll ever be a power bat, and the body type is a concern.

WTNY: Did you see better Yankee prospects out of Battle Creek this year? Particularly Eric Duncan and Melky Cabrera?

Goldstein: I think Duncan is probably the top prospect in the Yankees system right now, and I have ad admitted mancrush on Cabrera -- I think he can hit .300 wherever he goes, but I'm not sure he's going to put up big peripheral numbers. I also like Tyler Clippard off that team.

WTNY: Yeah, I noticed earlier in the year that Cabrera had similar numbers to Bernie Williams at the same age. As for Duncan, he has to be the best prospect trade bait out there, including Ryan Howard.

Goldstein: he's certainly among them, but don't rule out a move to 1st, which will probably be open when Duncan is ready.

WTNY: Or they could just put Jeter at secondWhile us Midwest guys were forced to watch some OK prospects last year, the real treats came from the Sally League. Is Delmon Young the best prospect in baseball?

Goldstein: I think he's certainly in the team photo, but I don't think I'd put him at No. 1. I said it when he was drafted, I said he when I saw him in the AFL, and I still say it. He's Albert Belle.

WTNY: But you'd rather have Marte?

Goldstein: No, I'd rather have Delmon. And that's no insult to Marte

WTNY: So, who is front and center in your team photo?

Goldstein: I think the best prospect in baseball is Felix Hernandez

WTNY: I think he probably has the highest ceiling, but I really worry about his workload. To me, Hernandez and Brandon McCarthy are two of the largest injury concerns in the minors.

Goldstein: Felix threw 150 innings this year, so that really doesn't concern me. McCarthy did like 160+, which also doesn't concern me because he's so efficient, just 30 walks.

WTNY: If you were a scouting director, how would you handle minor league pitchers? Tandem system, pitch count, or old school style?

Goldstein: I'd do pitch count. I'm not a fan at all of the tandem system.

WTNY: Why is that?

Goldstein: I think it fails to put pitchers in enough pressure situations, and it fails to reward them for pitching very well and it limits their innings TOO much in my mind. I'm a big proponent of a manageable workload, but I feel we've become TOO paranoid about it and run screaming for the trees every time a guy goes over 100 pitches. It's not always a bad thing.

WTNY: Some people say the tandem system in the low minors would be a good way to wean minor league pitchers into a 4-man rotation, which could be implemented come AA. Do you see a possible return to the 4-man?

Goldstein: I don't know if we'll see a return to it, but I certainly support the suggestion. I believe one could do a 4.5 man very well.

WTNY: Going back to top prospects, readers of my site always argue on the validity of Dallas McPherson as a top prospect. In his first Major League game he got 3 hits, in his second he struck out 4 times. Is he a possible superstar, a Jeremy Burnitz, or a dud waiting to happen?

Goldstein: Well, that's Dallas McPherson right there -- a lot of hits, and a lot of strikeouts. Strikeouts are overrated. But to compare him to Burnitz is a little silly. Burnitz' career minor league average was .249, D-Mac's is .308, and his slugging percentage has gone up at every level. He's real.

WTNY: Is McPherson in a need of a position change to outfield?

Goldstein: Good question. The answer is maybe. I think he's an adequate 3B, and with Glaus becoming an FA, I think he's going to stay there for awhile unless he's really awful there. He has the arm for RF if necessary.

WTNY: If he was to move to outfield, would he be well ahead of Francoeur, Hermida and Pie?

Goldstein: Well, one difference is defense, Pie can play CF, and Francouer is fringy there but would be a better defensive player. I'd take Francouer over him just because Francouer's potential is enormous, but I'd have McPherson ahead of Hermida and Pie.

WTNY: Dave Cameron told me an interview he thinks Hermida will have a big breakout next year, including a power spike. Do you see this happening?

Goldstein: It could. He really wasn't healthy EVER this year, so it's hard to judge him. He's got juice in his bat, but I'm not sure what Dave means by a power spike. I think he's a 20-25 HR guy in the end, not a real masher.

WTNY: On the topic of breakouts, who would be the one prospect you circle to have a big year in 2005, but didn't make a lot of noise this year?

Goldstein: I'll take Rickie Weeks.

WTNY: It seemed that AA was a bad barrier for a lot of hitters, including Weeks. I think him and Fielder will be fine next year, though I'm not sure on James Loney or Barfield anymore.

Goldstein: Loney is a lot like Weeks in that he never really got going this year, but scouts still were NOT down on either of them. And, do you know who led the Southern League in RBIs this year? Josh Barfield.

WTNY: So, you're still high on him?

Goldstein: I still think he had a disappointing year, but I wouldn't give up on him.

WTNY: Back to Loney, with the acquisition of Choi, he's blocked all of a sudden. How do you think the working relationship between Paul DePodesta and Logan White will work out?

Goldstein: I think it's working out just fine, and will continue to. DePodesta is I'm sure well aware that he has one of the best scouting directors in baseball, and he's going to trust him as he should. It's not like DePodesta is going to cram some sort of Moneyball Dogma down people's throat like some would think.

WTNY: Balancing scouting and statistics will probably work out best anyway Baseball America is usually accused of being TOO on the scouting fence, how would you respond to that?

Goldstein: Well, I think if that's the perception, it's dead wrong. Speaking for myself (and I know the same is true with Jim Callis and John Manuel) -- we're very much statheads. We're in our 30s and grew up reading Baseball Abstracts and thinking they were brilliant. That said, we ALSO feel there is incredible value in scouting. These are not just a bunch of fat guys in hats chewing cigars. These are incredibly knowledgeable people about player development. There's value in both and we look at both.

WTNY: Do you think making the Prospect Report e-mail BEFORE joining the Baseball America staff helped you stay more of a stathead?

Goldstein: I always valued and understood statistics, but frankly, many of them turn me off.

WTNY: What statistics do you find to be most telling in a prospect?

Goldstein: In a hitting prospect, it's the usual stuff hit for average, hit for power, run, plate discipline. Pitchers, I just look at ip-h-bb-k -- but those numbers can be VERY deceiving for a pitcher, you still HAVE to know what his stuff is.

WTNY: Dayn Perry had a revealing study using current Major Leaguers, comparing stars to average players minor league numbers. He found that HR/9 had the best correlation of any stat for pitching. I also noticed this year that many of the successful 2004 rookies had great HR/9 ratios in 2003. Could there be something to HR/9?

Goldstein: I'd have to see the data more, and I know Dayn personally and think he's pretty damn smart. But I rely on Ks, BBs, and stuff.

WTNY: OK, kind of along the same line is the high school v. college player debate. Is there any reason for teams to avoid high schoolers, or do you like them because they have higher ceilings?

Goldstein: There's no logical reason to avoid high school players. PERIOD. And there's no logical reason for favoring them. I saw you just take the best player available, regardless of source.

WTNY: What about the Braves philosophy, to pretty much only pick high school players from the South?

Goldstein: I don't think that's they're philosophy per say, but there is almost a safeness to these picks, as these are the players their scouting dept is most familiar with -- it's certainly worked VERY well for them.

WTNY: I want to close on a trio of high school pitchers that have had memorable Septembers: Zack Greinke, Scott Kazmir, and Rick Ankiel. Who would you want on your club? Who would you least want?

Goldstein: Toughest question of the day. I'd take Kazmir of the trio -- I've always liked him more than anyone else and I still do. I'd take Greinke second purely on safeness. Ankiel is the huge wildcard. If he never won another game in the majors, I can't say I'd be shocked. If he won 150 games from here on out and made multiple all-star teams, I can't say I'd be shocked.

WTNY: Best baseball story of the year, I think.

Goldstein: It's certainly right up there -- I have no idea how one couldn't root for him.

WTNY: Agreed. Thanks again Kevin.

Comments

GREAT stuff. And by the way, I will CONTINUE to resist the McPherson bandwagon.

Great interview! What is a good HR/9 ratio to look for in prospects? 1.0? 0.5? 0.25?

Thanks,
JayBud

Great interview Bryan! Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

Great interview. Thank you, Bryan and Kevin.